India tops the external agenda priorities of the European Union (EU), Tomasz Kozlowski, EU Ambassador to India, said after the bloc adopted a Joint Communication that sets out its vision for strengthening ties with New Delhi.
“India is on top of our priorities in terms of external agenda,” Kozlowski said. “Now, we have clarity on our common interests,” he said. “We are proposing to reinforce the EU-India Strategic Partnership.”
The European Commission in Brussels, the executive body of the EU and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini adopted a Joint Communication November 20 that sets out the EU’s vision for a strategy to strengthen cooperation and the partnership with India.
This Joint Communication replaces the last Commission Communication on India of 2004, recognising that India has emerged as the fastest-growing large economy and has acquired an important geopolitical role. The communication aims to strengthen the EU-India Strategic Partnership by focusing on sustainable modernization and on common responses to global and regional issues.
“India is a key player in our interconnected world”, said Mogherini. “We want to further reinforce our political, economic and people-to-people ties with India in order to address together global challenges, to promote together economic growth and to expand together business opportunities,” she said.
As an emerging global power, India plays a key role in the current multi-polar world. To maintain the rules-based global order, therefore, it is vital that the EU and India implement “effective multilateralism and global economic governance”.
The EU will seek to consolidate dialogue on multilateral issues and coordinate positions with India. The EU will seek more coordination between its initiatives and those of its member states towards India. The EU and its member states will work together to provide a better understanding of the EU in India and to make EU’s public diplomacy more effective.
Finally, the Joint Communication proposes that the EU considers the possibility to negotiate with India a Strategic Partnership Agreement, in order to update the 1994 EU-India Cooperation Agreement.
Ambassador Kozlowski said the new Joint Communication takes into account India’s modernisation priorities.
Over the past few years, both sides have tried to transform their shared values into “clearly identifiable interests,” he said. “We all agree that there is a huge untapped potential in our bilateral relationship. Together we have two billion people. We can offer each other a lot.”
Also, the EU is committed to working on a comprehensive, balanced and meaningful free trade agreement with India. Negotiations for a Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) started in 2007 but were put on hold in 2015.
Those in the know say that after India renounced its bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with all countries, investments from European nations are now not protected. India terminated all BITs after New Delhi released a new BIT model in December 2015. The 28 EU member states have now passed on the responsibility of investment protection negotiations to the EU.
There has also been cooperation through the European Investment Bank (EIB) with 30 different projects being implemented. “Around 2.5 billion euros have been invested by the EIB in different climate-related projects,” Kozlowski said.
Given the ongoing concerns over poor air quality in Delhi and other Indian cities, air pollution is a challenge, he said, for Indian and European cities. “We launched an EU-India project to bring experts and decision-makers from both sides to ease the situation,” Kozlowski said.
He also said the EU and India are discussing cooperation in maritime security and counter-terrorism efforts.
“For years, we have been able to deploy our naval forces through Operation Atlanta in the Indian Ocean for counter-piracy operations,” he said.”We have surveillance operations in the Indian Ocean and we have offered to share these with India.”
Both India and EU, he said, are working on listing terrorists and terror organisations, particularly through the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) route. Founded in 1989 to develop policies to combat money-laundering, the its mandate was expanded in 2001 to curb terrorism financing.